Top 10 Books – 2018

From the Corner of the Oval Office

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I was genuinely sad when I’d finished reading this. It’s a book I didn’t know I needed to read, but one I really needed to read! If you get the chance to see Beck Dorey-Stein talk about her book, then go!

 

Daisy Jones & The Six

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Sometimes a book comes along that you love heart and soul. Daisy Jones & The Six is that book. I adored it!

 

The Possible World

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I don’t even have the words to say just how incredible this book is! The last line is one of my favourite ever written. It will stay with me always.

 

Dear Mrs Bird

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Such a wonderful book, I absolutely LOVED it! I miss Emmy and Bunty and can’t wait for book two.

 

Where The Light Gets In

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Where The Light Gets In broke and mended my heart. I sobbed through the last few chapters! A lovely, heart-warming, comforting book.

 

The Lost Man

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I raced through this book in two days, it’s engrossing and completely unputdownable! And, dare I say it, better than The Dry!

 

Sal

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I loved this book. It’s full of hope, sisterhood, humanity and humour. Of one my favourite debuts this year.

 

The Chalk Man

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I loved everything about this book It’s creepy, tense and wonderfully 80s! I can’t wait for book two.

 

The Smiling Man

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This book is just brilliant. If you enjoyed Sirens, then you’ll enjoy this more. A gritty, crime noir. Roll on book three!

 

The Woman in the Window

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An incredible book. I held my breath through the last few chapters! So, so good!

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Good Samaritans – Will Carver

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One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans. But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home… And someone is watching… Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

Good Samaritans is one of those books where you tell yourself you’ll just read one more chapter and know that you have no intention of reading just one more chapter. It sucks you in from the very start, with its very cleverly crafted storyline, which follows insomniac Seth Beauman, his wife Maeve and suicidal Hadley Serf.

The characters are brilliantly developed. They’re likeable (or so you think) but also hateable and you do find yourself sympathising with them, until a massive plot twist changes everything and then you find yourself shouting out a loud ‘nooooooo’ at your book and you’re left wondering how you could have ever felt sorry for them.

I’ve not read anything quite like this book for a long time. It’s so twisty and keeps you guessing throughout. Who do you trust? Who don’t you trust? It’s completely engrossing and once the pace picks up you’ll be thrilled, in more ways then one!

Although very twisted and graphic in parts, the story is also funny and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud on several occasions. It’s hard to go into too much detail without giving anything away, but this is a book with characters who are filled with desperation, obsession and lust. Lots of lust. They have more in common with each other than they would like to admit and this is what drives the plot forward to the very twisted ending.

Good Samaritans is a deliciously dark, dirty, domestic noir and you’re going to love it!

Thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the tour invite and review copy.

Good Samaritans publishes on the 15th November.

Keep following the tour this month, below!

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Paris in the Dark – Robert Olen Butler

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To celebrate the publication of Paris in the Dark and the start of the blog tour, I’m kicking off with a giveaway!

Autumn 1915. The First World War is raging across Europe. Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches, although that hasn’t stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, a Chicago reporter and undercover agent for the US government is in Paris when he meets an enigmatic nurse called Louise. Officially in the city for a story about American ambulance drivers, Cobb is grateful for the opportunity to get to know her but soon his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, extends his mission. Parisians are meeting ‘death by dynamite’ in a new campaign of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to discover who is behind this – possibly a German operative who has infiltrated with the waves of refugees? And so begins a pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits and talents for survival.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book, head over to my Twitter account here.

And be sure to follow the rest of the tour over the next few weeks!

Paris In The Dark Blog Tour Poster

 

Doll House – Ashley Lister

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Welcome to my stop on the Doll House blog tour. I’m excited to shared an excerpt of the book with you!

 

High atop a hill in the centre of Sandalwood village, visible from every twist and turn that John’s car took, there stood a decrepit, gothic building.  With the fading twilight behind it the house looked like something where the Addams Family would live, or the home of Norman Bates.  It was tall, dark and so obviously spooky Ben thought it could have been snatched from the opening credits of a Scooby-Doo cartoon.  It was easy to imagine a flutter of black bats or a white-sheet ghost flapping from the high-arched doorway or one of the sinister upper windows.  Ben didn’t want to be intrigued but he couldn’t help wonder about the building.

“Where are you taking me?”

“You sound like a fucking kidnap victim,” John yawned.

“It worries me that you know what kidnap victims sound like.  Where are you taking me?”

“I told you where I’m taking you,” John spoke with weary resignation.  “For the next three months I’ll be giving you what every lazy writer needs.  I’m putting you in my personal country cottage.  You’ll have the solitude and the isolation necessary to finish your latest novel.  I’m taking you back to your writing career.”

Ben stared out of the window.  He scowled at the sign saying WELCOME TO SANDALWOOD.  They drove past a cemetery-fringed churchyard, a police station and a pub.  He saw a library and a pair of shops that were closed at this late hour of a Sunday evening.  The houses they passed, all yellow stone beneath slick slate roofs, were packed tight together and lurked behind prettily floral front gardens.  As the darkness took hold, the streets were lit by the archaic yellow glow of mock-Victorian streetlamps.  Ben thought it was the sort of location that would likely have village fetes, a secret history of animal sacrifice and some sort of deserved reputation for bestiality or inbreeding.  Or maybe both.

“I don’t want solitude and isolation,” Ben grumbled.  “I want alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and maybe some class B drugs.  Those are the things that help me write.”

“Yeah,” John agreed.  “You’ve had those for the last year and we’re still no closer to seeing the final book in your trilogy, are we?”

Ben continued to stare out of the window.  Sandalwood looked like it was in the middle of nowhere.  He could see none of the familiar signs he would have expected telling him there was either a bank, a McDonalds, an ASDA or a Carphone Warehouse lurking on the high street.  He was beginning to suspect that the two shops, the library and the police station might well have been all of Sandalwood’s high street.  It was, he thought, something akin to third world deprivation.  With his heart racing he peered more furiously out of the window and tried to see something that suggested they were still in the twenty-first century.

“Where is this place?”

“This is Sandalwood,” John said.  “You head up north for a couple of hours past Birmingham and then you turn left for a bit.  What does it matter where it is?”

Ben shrugged.  He stopped himself from saying that it mattered if he was going to try and escape.  He was still staring out of the window but the light had faded so much now he was treated only to glimpses of his own unkempt reflection.

There was a week-old beard dirtying his jaw.  His hair was an untidy tangle beneath the cowl of his oversized hoodie.  His eyes were hidden in deep shadows borne from too many late nights and too much excess.  With high cheekbones and an unlined brow it had once been a handsome face but now it looked like the reflection of an ailing party animal.

An ailing party animal that needed a kindly vet to end its suffering.

He pushed that thought aside.  Not only was it depressing but it was a cheesily extended metaphor that made no sense.

John pulled the car off the road and onto a driveway. to a halt outside a pair of tall, imposing gates.  He stepped out of the vehicle and stood illuminated in the headlights as he fumbled with a lock and chain.  He was an angular man: tall and slender and unnatural in his gait.  In his corduroy slacks, sports jacket and a Harris Tweed flat cap, he looked like a man who knew how to dress for the countryside even if the environment seemed not quite right for him.

The Daimler’s engine continued to purr softly.

The chill of the encroaching night crept into the vehicle and began to caress Ben’s cheeks and hands.  He hadn’t realised how warm and comfortable the journey so far had been and the sinister chill of the evening was unnerving.

This is your last chance, Ben thought to himself.  If you want to get back to the city, and escape from this three-month exile to the middle-of-fucking-nowhere, this is your last opportunity to steal John’s car and drive away from here.

He didn’t act on the idea.

He had nowhere to go and no reason to escape.  If he didn’t write the final book in the trilogy he knew he could give up on any hope of ever writing again for publication.  If he stole his agent’s car it would likely put an end to their working relationship and Ben knew, afterwards, he would be lucky to be left with the option to self-publish on Amazon.

John climbed back into the car, shivering a little as he settled himself into the driver’s seat.  “It’s nippy out there,” he grumbled.  He slammed the door shut and then drove the car slowly up the driveway.  “I’m hoping it will be warmer in the house.”

Overhanging trees made the route a dark tunnel.  Ben could hear the scratch of talon-like branches snatching at the paintwork of the car. The tyres crunched at loose gravel.  Noisy shards of the road were ripped from the ground and spat up at the metalwork beneath his feet.

“You’ve got property with a driveway?” Ben muttered.  “You must be loaded.”

John laughed.  “We’re up north.  You could buy this entire village for the same price as some garden flat in London with an attractive postcode.  If this place was really valuable do you think I’d be using it as a dumping ground for fuck-up writers who can’t honour a simple contract?”

“Don’t bother sugar-coating those thoughts.  Tell me how you really feel.”

John parked outside the cottage.  The building had only been visible in glimpses of headlamp beams as they approached but he could now see it was a majestic brownstone structure, set in its own grounds, with lights on in a handful of the windows.  At one of the upper windows he thought he saw the movement of a figure, although he wasn’t sure if that was simply a trick of his imagination or a passing leaf shed in the early autumn fall.

As though reading the unease in his expression, John said, “The lights are on because Mrs Scum has been in here cleaning all day.”

“Mrs Scum?”

John shrugged as he made his way to the rear of the vehicle and retrieved John’s suitcase.  “That’s probably not her real name,” he called.  “She’s the cleaner.  I never bothered learning her real name.  I figured Mrs Scum worked as a suitable nom de guerre.

“Classy,” Ben muttered.

John made a sound of indifference as he hefted a suitcase and a rucksack from the boot of the car and dropped them by Ben’s feet.  “Grab those and follow me,” he said, climbing the stairs that led up to the door.  “Let’s get you settled in.”

Ben did as instructed and followed.

He watched John slip a key into the main door and then push it open.  The scent of home-cooked food struck him as soon as he stepped inside.  The fragrance was so strong and appetising he felt weak with hunger and angry at himself for being so easily won over by a mere aroma.  He was salivating like a Pavlovian dog in a doorbell factory.

“Step inside,” John encouraged.  He seemed either oblivious to the smell or spectacularly unimpressed.  “Step inside and make yourself comfortable.  You’re going to be here for a while.”

 

Scared? Intrigued? Want to read more? Then follow the rest of the tour this month!

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Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on the tour and to Ashley Lister for the excerpt.

Doll House is published by Caffeine Nights and is available now.

11 Missed Calls – Elisabeth Carpenter

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Here are two things I know about my mother:
1. She had dark hair, like mine.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.
Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.

But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.

Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family.

And then a body is found.

11 Missed Calls is a slow burner of a book, but suceeds in making you feel stressed and uncomfortable throughout. You’re constantly on edge and waiting for something to happen, you’re just not sure what.
The story is told through Anna in the present day and Debbie (her mother) in the 1980s. I thought this worked well and it added to the tension which slowly built throughout the book. You particularly feel for Debbie – is someone purposely causing her to feel like she is losing her mind or is there more to her mental health than is being realised by her husband and family?
The book is very female led, which I enjoyed. Many of the other main characters, in particular Anna’s husband and to some extent Debbie’s husband, were not likeable and I think this cleverly added to you not knowing who to trust.
There are plenty of red herrings in the book and the ending wasn’t what I was expecting.
11 Missed Calls is a claustrophobic, uncomfortable read and will appeal to fans of domestic thrillers.
Thank you to Sabah Khan for sending me a review copy.
11 Missed Calls is published by Avon and is available now.

The New Girl – Ingrid Alexandra

It’s my stop on the The New Girl blog tour today and I’m excited to be able to share this extract with you!

 

The sky is ominous today. Slate-grey clouds hang over the horizon and the sea is the colour of dishwater. Early summer weather is fickle and today it’s only sixteen degrees and sheeting with rain.

I tap my foot on the wooden deck, a lukewarm cup of tea in my hands. My eyes flick back and forth to the clock on my phone but time doesn’t seem to be passing at all.

Why did I agree to this? Cat could have swapped shifts with someone, surely, or Ben could have postponed his ‘date’. Isn’t this something we should all be doing together?

My foot taps on restlessly, like it’s disconnected from the rest of me. Tap tap tap tap tap tap. The intercom buzzes and I jump, spilling tea down the front of my T-shirt.

Shit.’

Rushing into the kitchen, I drop the mug in the sink and mop at my front with a soggy tea towel, which only serves to spread the moisture. The intrusive buzz sounds again and I jab my finger at the silver button on the intercom.

‘Hello?’ I say. The word sounds hoarse, as if spoken by a heavy smoker. Silence. I clear my throat, ‘Hello?’

‘Hi! Yes. Um, is this Mary?’ It’s a soft, husky female voice, not what I was expecting.

‘Yes.’

‘Hi! It’s Rachel. For the room?’

‘Right, yeah. Of course. Come on up.’

‘Thanks!’

I press the button for the front door and hear a short, low brrrrrrpt on the other end.

She’s in.

Swallowing thickly, I pour myself some water, then stop. Shit, I’ve forgotten. Today of all days. Dashing to my room, I yank open the top drawer of my dresser and find the

aluminium popper pack. I thrust my thumb into the foil twice and throw back the small, white pills with a slug of water. As I’m wiping my mouth on my sleeve, there’s a knock at the door.

 

I know you all wish there was more! You can follow the rest of the blog tour, here.

The New Girl Blog Tour Banner

The new girl is published by Avon and is available in October.

Thank you Sabah Khan for inviting me on the tour!

The House Swap – Rebecca Fleet

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When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

The House Swap had me gripped from page one. This is a slow paced, domestic noir, told through chapters set in the present day and the past. I really liked this aspect of the book, it really helped to build the tension and you got to know the back story of the characters, which added a lot to the story.

It’s clear from the outset that Caroline and Francis are really trying to reconnect as a couple. They are polite and nervous around each other, which heightens the uncomfortableness and the fact that something is going to happen, you just don’t know what that something is.

The characters are well written and you sympathise with them just as much as you want to shout at them to take a look at what they are doing to each other and to themselves. This keeps you reading on. You need to know if the characters are who they appear to be and what it is that they are hiding.

Rebecca Fleet’s writing is addictive and will keep you turning the pages until the unexpected ending! A gripping, twisty, well-written debut.

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson for the review copy.

The House Swap published on the 3rd May by Doubleday.